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SCOPE slams housebuilders for 'fudging' disabled access

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The disabled charity scope has slammed housebuilders for resisting the latest changes to the building regulations which aim to enforce better access to new homes and large extensions.

scope, formerly the Spastics' Society, said the changes to the building regulations taking force at the end of this month had not been taken on in good spirit, adding that builders were keen to avoid complying with part three of section m of the regulations. It believes that builders may look for loopholes to stop them having to widen doorways, build ground- level thresholds and make wcs more accessible.

Public buildings have by law had to provide access for the UK's 6.5 million disabled people for some years. From October 25 all new homes and large extensions will have to follow suit. But Jill Stewart, head of research at scope said: 'There has been a lot of resistance from housebuilders. We have lobbied for years, and the House Builders Federation was very much against it. Some builders say you can't make a level threshold waterproof . . .We are afraid housebuilders will use loopholes like this to avoid doing the work.'

scope was keen to see new homes adaptable for all stages of life, including elements like reinforced joists to take hoists. scope campaign officer James Ford said he feared the building industry would 'fudge' the law. 'Yet this is an equality issue and disabled people should have the same chances as anyone else.'

riba vice president John Wright said riba supported the changes, which would inevitably mean extra costs. 'I think the British public will be prepared to pay that little bit extra.'

Wright, who designed his own home in 1981 to be completely accessible, said some 'enlightened' councils like Waverley in Surrey, were already insisting on such more accessibility.

Dave Baker, technical director of the House Builders Federation, denied it had fought the changes, but said it had made 'representations' on the dificulty of meeting them. 'If you want to improve the built environment, maybe you need to look at the whole sector, including existing buildings and grants. Builders will comply with the changes.'

Meanwhile scope has launched a survey to tie in with the second phase of the Disability Discriminaton Act 1995. This requires good practice and policy by service providers like shops, and came into force last week. Thousands of forms have gone out to disabled people, mainly in London, asking them to note good and bad points of design. Early results were 'not showing a very happy picture' for disabled people with Covent Garden faring particularly badly.

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